Graphics or Video Cards for Video Games

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Graphics or Video Cards for Video Games

Playing video games has transformed popular culture significantly over the last several decades. Engaging in gameplay on laptops, desktops, and game consoles is a regular way of life for countless individuals around the world. Since the 1980s, video games have advanced to become complex graphical interfaces that demand high performance machines. Owners of gaming laptops and desktops often need to seek out ways to upgrade their units' graphics cards so that they can keep up with the ever-evolving world of video games. These cards, sometimes referred to as video cards, can be a complicated product to understand.

Before buying a graphics card, consumers may wish to confirm that they understand the ways in which these cards work and what features discerning consumers look for to make a strong choice in this market. Consumers can also benefit from knowing how to shop for graphics cards beyond the traditional retail options, which include brick and mortar computer and electronics stores. As an example, online retailers like eBay can offer a much more diverse selection for the discriminating consumer.

What Is a Graphics Card?

A graphics card is an expansion card that ports with a computer via an electrical connector to enhance the graphical functionality of a machine. They are designed to enhance the computer's ability to output high-quality display images. Video cards can improve the rendering of 2D and 3D images, the decoding of video formats such as MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, and even allow a computer to display its graphics across multiple monitors.

Graphics cards are often connected to computers via dedicated expansion slots that come built into computers. Unlike the existing graphics chipset that a computer might have built into its motherboard, often referred to as the integrated graphics chip, a video card has its own RAM and processor dedicated to processing graphics and video images. This greatly enhances the performance capabilities of the system and frees up processing power in the computer's CPU and RAM. Most modern motherboards allow users to disable the integrated graphics chip by inserting the new video card into an expansion slot.

Technical Specifications of Graphics Cards

There are certain tech specs that define the performance quality of video cards. Consumers need to know what these specs mean and what values to look for in order to find the best graphics cards for their upgrades.

Graphics Processing Unit

The graphics processing unit of the video card, or GPU, is essentially like a mini-computer. Just like the central processing unit in a computer, the GPU leverages its own RAM to facilitate fast and efficient processing of high-level tasks. This electronic circuit rapidly utilises this quick-access memory to build images that can then be displayed on the computer's monitor.

Another factor that GPUs have in common with the CPUs of computers is the convention used to label them. Generally speaking, a GPU with the highest number in a series is the strongest processor. In other words, a GeForce GTX 690 from Nvidia is more powerful than the GTX 680. There are exceptions to this, but this can be a good starting guideline for consumers to use as they begin to search through options.

Memory and Clock Speed in a Graphics Card

Since a graphics card is a mini-CPU, consumers should look at the memory and clock speed of a card to determine its performance capabilities. Memory, or RAM, essentially defines how much free space it has to make real-time processing decisions. Most cards range in memory from 128 MB to 8 GB on the high end. Clock speed can affect how quickly it makes those decisions. Clock speeds vary generally from 1 GHz to 6.3 GHz.

The same version of a video card can come in two different versions with different amounts of memory. That is to say, an AMD graphics card, for example, can come in both 1 GB or 3 GB versions within the same model number. In general, the more RAM a card has, the better it can handle complicated graphics tasks. Fast clock speeds can sometimes compensate for less RAM, so consumers should also assess this spec as a factor when making a decision.

Type of Memory in a Video Card

It is also important for users to factor in the type of memory used in a video card. Different memory types deliver variations in clock speed and performance. The following table outlines some of the performance variations between the most common memory types in graphics cards.

Type

Clock Speed (MHz)

Bandwidth (GB/s)

DDR

166 – 950

1.2 – 3.04

DDR2

128 – 200

N/A

GDDR5

900 – 5700

130 – 230

As is apparent from the chart, later model RAM types do not always deliver faster processing speeds. In some cases, graphics cards with DDR memory may have faster clock speeds than DDR2 memory and, therefore, faster RAM processing times.

Size of a Video Card

Many gamers use both laptops and tower-style desktop units to play video games. Given the variation in the size of these form factors, users should also remember to pay attention to the size of a video card. As the performance quality of a card increases, so can its size. Users should keep an eye out for the length of a card to ensure that it fits within the specs of the card slot in a machine. Some graphics cards can be as long as 32 cm, and this makes them unwieldy and difficult for some machines to handle.

Considering Thermal Design Power in a Graphics Card

The thermal design power, or TDP, of a video card defines how much power it uses up. These cards are powerful units and can use as much as 425 watts under a full graphics load. If consumers are looking into really powerful video cards, such as the Radeon HD 6990, they need to confirm that their systems can handle the power load of these strong performers. A card's TDP can help guide this process. Many card manufacturers list the minimum power needed to drive their video card solutions.

Special Features in Graphics Cards

Video cards can come with certain enhancement features that can affect the performance quality of the unit. These features can sometimes be found across brands, or they can be brand specific. AMD, for example, has a feature known as Eyefinity technology that enables users to run up to six monitors on a single video card. Nvidia's version of this digital game wall technology is called Nvidia Surround. Nvidia is also known for PhysX, a technology that makes objects behave according to real-world physics, and 3D Vision, which enables stereoscopic 3D with the proper monitor.

Video cards can also support different versions of Microsoft's DirectX. DirectX is a collection of APIs that extend different graphical and processing features. DirectX is an ever-evolving technology. The higher the number version, the more advanced its performance capabilities. Many new games are written using the latest DirectX version, and gamers often need the latest in graphics cards to keep up with this curve. Consumers interested in playing games created with the latest DX technology should confirm that video cards support the most recent version of DX before purchasing them.

Buying Graphics or Video Cards on eBay

Buying graphics cards on eBay can be one of the easiest ways to comparison shop and evaluate a wide array of options. Since this site is an aggregator of merchandise, it brings together multiple vendors to create a really diverse marketplace for gamers. You can begin your search on eBay using the search interface found on any page on the site. Run a search with a general term or leverage the Advanced Search options to pull up more specific listings. The site also offers further refinement options within search results, and this allows you to focus on specs such as memory type and size.

Evaluating Sellers on eBay

When buying technology on any site, it can always be helpful to confirm that your seller has the knowledge and experience to get you the exact product you need. eBay makes this easy by providing feedback on sellers from other customers for you to review. You can also communicate directly with a seller on eBay if you need to confirm any technical specifications or compatibility issues with a graphics card. This can greatly improve the purchasing process and help ensure that you find the right fit for your computing and gaming needs.

Conclusion

Modern video gaming demands the latest in video and graphics technology. For those who wish to pursue gaming at its highest level, updating a laptop or desktop with an enhanced graphics cards is a necessity. These units can boost the performance capabilities of a machine up to a whole new level, making it possible for a computer to handle the latest and most advanced video game technology and graphics. Given the complexities of these video cards, it can help for a consumer to understand how these units work. Consumers should also learn about the specifications that make video cards strong performers.

With this information in hand, consumers can then utilise the user-friendly interface on eBay to search through countless video card listings. By just reviewing specs and communicating with sellers, gamers can find an array of graphics cards that can take their gaming to the next level and ensure that they can enjoy the latest games in the most effective ways. Local computer and electronics stores are also likely to feature a nice selection of graphics cards for gamers.

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